emotional abuse

3 Kinds of Abuse

3 Kinds of Abuse

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by: Jonathan Hart, LPC

There are many kinds of power, and anywhere there is power, there is the potential to abuse it.  Not all people who abuse power are abusers.  It is possible to be abusive without abuse defining one’s character.  Many instances of abused power are either Situational or Contextual rather than Characterological.

“Situational” abusiveness occurs when “we” are having an argument and it escalates.  We both “lose control” and cross lines in the heat of a moment.  We still need to apologize and take responsibility for our actions across lines, but this is not *characteristic* of who either one of us is at our core, even if it happens “all the time”.  What we do and say in these moments is not something we enjoy or approve of.

What I’m calling “Contextual” abusiveness generally occurs in places where one or the other of us does not fully recognize how much power we have in our context, that is, in the culture that we come from. We don’t recognize how our own culture interacts with the culture of another.  We don’t have a frame of reference to understand just how much power we have even walking into a room when people unlike ourselves are there.  We trample people underfoot or insult them without recognizing what we’re doing.

This is the most common kind of power struggle that shows up in relationships (in my experience).  It shows up even when the relationship is not racially or culturally mixed.  We all have a family culture that is often more powerful than we understand.  We have a set of “normals”: expectations that come from our customary experience and which we often simply take for granted.  These are almost invariably different from the person with whom we are in relationship, because they have a different family.

Normally, this leads to all manner of conflict and argument in a couple’s relationship.  People in healthy relationships learn how to adapt to these differences and continue to function.  Many folks – even those in healthy relationships – need help in recognizing each person’s blind spots and learning how to value or at least account for the other person’s family culture.

Oppression or “Characterological abusiveness” in relationship happens when I treat my “normal” as the only “right” way to operate and refuse to take the other person’s different “normal” into account. It happens when I attempt to coerce (force, deceive, confuse) the other into my way of being and operating as the only acceptable mode.   It happens when I know what kind of power I have and I knowingly and deliberately misuse that power to gain victory or control over another person. The thing that separates this from Contextual is a lack of willingness or ability to bend and learn.

My aim with this post is to help the reader develop language and understanding around the pain they are experiencing in relationship, to be able to seek the help they need more accurately, and by finding that help, to connect with hope in what often seems to be an overwhelmingly hopeless situation.  –JH

Healing from Domestic Violence: The Struggle to Find Clarity

Healing From Domestic Violence:  Struggling to Find Clarity

One universal truth of all those who have been abused is the struggle to find clarity.

Abusers love to cause confusion.  They tend to do this by distorting reality through lies and manipulation.  Years of this type of relating can cause the abused to feel crazy.  Being lied to over and over again is not only crazy-making but it begins to make untruth’s seem like truths.

Abusers also love to make themselves the victim.  Abusers will claim they are actually the ones being abused and will make their mate out to be the “bad one.”  This can prove very difficult because abusers are usually eloquent speakers who are well-liked in their community.  They are very believable people – skilled in the art of lies, deception, and spinning the truth to accommodate their agenda.  Once the abuser begins relating in these ways it causes much confusion – for both the victim and those trying to care for the couple.

In the midst of these realities how can clarity be achieved?

Stop second guessing yourself.  A person who has lived in an abusive setting for any length of time has become a second-guesser of themselves because their abuser has constantly re-written and changed reality to meet their agenda.

When you find yourself second-guessing how you remember a situation or something you said, because your abuser is telling you you’re wrong, choose to BELIEVE what you KNOW happened.  Not what your abuser is telling you.  Overtime this will get easier, but in the beginning it is very difficult.  Inviting safe and healthy people into your life (family, friend(s), pastor, counselor, etc.) to help you process through your second-guessing will prove very beneficial.

Learn from others who have been where you are.  Many times clarity is achieved by simply listening to other abuse survivors share their story and struggles.  You will begin to feel less crazy.  Trust me on this one.  You will soon be able to identify more of the scope and magnitude of your abuse. All of a sudden memories and stories you have never been able to fully understand or make sense of will fall into place as you hear from others.  Many cities have support groups that are run by professional counselors to provide this sort of care to abuse survivors.  If you are located in St. Louis, MO and would like this information please contact me and I will be happy to assist you.

Learn from the experts.  Finding clarity through learning and gaining understanding about your abuse, and more broadly about abusers, will be beneficial when seeking clarity.  A book that many victims of abuse find helpful is Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.  This book will provide insight into the minds and ways of abusive men.  It will also help bring understanding and insight into the life you are still living or have broken free from.  Another book equally as helpful is written by Patricia Evans, and it is called The Verbally Abusive Relationship.

If you choose to go to counseling (which I think is extremely beneficial!) be sure to find a counselor that has experience working with abuse/abuse survivors.  Going to a counselor that does not have this sort of experience can prove to only further your confusion.

These suggestions are the first steps in your journey to find clarity in the midst of confusion.  Each of these suggestions have one aspect in common – finding clarity and healing is best achieved in community and not alone.

-by: Lianne Johnson, LPC